Friday, January 20, 2012
Vintage Fridays: Gene Stephens, 1961 Topps #102
At first blush, his O's tenure was underwhelming. Gene batted .238/.327/.373 with 5 homers and 11 RBI in 227 plate appearances in 1960, and dipped to .190/.347/.224 with a pair of RBI in 72 trips to the plate the following year before being traded. But the five homers he hit in his first half-season in Charm City are more than he hit in all but one full season elsewise (9, 1958). Stephens had one of his biggest hits as an Oriole just a week after joining the team. On June 17, 1960, Detroit's Frank Lary had blanked the Birds for 6 innings and was protecting a 1-0 lead when Brooks Robinson led off the seventh with a triple. The runner had to hold on a grounder to first base by pinch hitter Bob Boyd, which brought up the pitcher's spot in the order. Manager Paul Richards called upon Gene to pinch-hit for Jerry Walker, and the outfielder responded with a go-ahead two-run home run. The O's pushed across another run and held on for a 3-1 win. It was the third and final pinch homer of Stephens' career. Incredibly, his first longball as a pinch-hitter also came off of Lary, on August 28, 1956. Even better, it was an inside-the-park job! Frank Lary was probably not a Gene Stephens fan; in their 28 meetings, the outfielder batted .308 and slugged .731, adding a pair of doubles and a third home run to his couple of pinch homers. Not bad work for someone with 37 career home runs.